A Nebraska bishop has taken the unusual step of excommunicating Catholics who belong to groups favoring abortion, euthanasia or the right to dissent from official church teaching.

In a March 19 statement published in The South Nebraska Register, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln aid Catholic participation in such groups as Planned Parenthood, the Hemlock Society and Catholics for a Free Choice is incompatible with the faith.  He called on Catholic members of 12 specified organizations to resign by May 15 or face excommunication.  In addition for the pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia groups, the ban includes membership of the Freemasons, Call to Action and the Society of St. Pious X, a group denying the validity of the Second Vatican Council.

“Membership in these organizations is always perilous to the Catholic faith and most often is totally incompatible with the Catholic faith.”  Bishop Bruskewitz wrote in the Lincoln diocesan newspaper.  Under the excommunication penalty, Catholics are barred from receiving the Sacraments.  Bishop Bruskewitz reserved the right to life the excommunication for any Catholics who renounce their membership in the prohibited groups.

Father Frank Morrisey, a professor of Canon law at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, said bishops have authority to impose such measures in their own diocese.  He wondered however, if the threat of excommunication was the best way to deal with Catholic membership in proscribed organizations.

“There is some question about the particular interpretation of Canon law of this matter.”  Father Morrisey said, “People might see this as a case of overkill.”

Father Morrisey suggested Bishop Bruskewitz might have sought out opinions of other bishops in Nebraska and area before announcing the excommunication.

An editorial in The South Nebraska Register, however, reported that the bishop’s action came only after extensive consultation on the issue.  The editorial anticipated that prohibited groups and church critics will be given a broad platform in the media to express their outrage at Bishop Bruskewitz’s decision.  However the Lincoln diocese will be obedient to our bishop and let us pray as well for the conversion of any who may dissent and this incur the serious sins and ecclesial penalties listed in this legislation.